osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,
osewalrus
osewalrus

Oh, If Only Someone Had Warned Us! Oh yeah, they did . . .

I know it's bad to make fun of people who come to wisdom late. But some people need to be reminded of the depths of their sins lest their arrogance prevent true repentance.

Those of us active in policy in the 1990s may remember Bruce Lehman. Lehman was Clinton's administrator of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Lehman firmly believed that you could never have too much by way of intellectual property rights. It was Lehman who first permitted and actively promoted the idea of "business method patents." It was Lehman who pushed for the WIPO treaties that eventually became the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Lehman also heavily supported the creation of ICANN, passage of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), and -- most importantly -- the need for technological mandates in technology. Lehman fervently believed that giving IP holders such tools and expanded rights was absolutely necessary to get them to embrace digital technologies and ensure they got appropriately compensated. He disdainfully dismissed those of us who cautioned that the intellectual property mafia (as I like to call them) would not embrace digital technologies, but would instead use these new rights and mandates to maintain market power and resist technological changes that threatened their business models.

(It's really this arrogance that contributes to my gloating now. In 1997, it was not at all obvious that our predictions would come true. I can feel an empathy for folks like Becky Burr or Ira Magaziner that weighed the evidence on both sides and guessed wrong. But Lehman wouldn't even conceed that folks worried about the endless expansion of patent, copyright and trademark and associated new rights and technological mandates even had an argument worth considering.)

So I read with great interest and some uncontrollable glee that Mr. Lehman has at last found a bit of wisdom -- albeit only a bit. Michael Geist, a superstar law professor and policy wonk in intellectual property and internet policy in Canada (and a cool guy to boot) wrote on his blog that Lehman now feels that the policies he created "didn't work out very well." http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/1826/125/

You can find a link to the video of the event in Canada where Lehman made his comments on Google video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4162208056624446466&hl=en

Lehman blames the RIAA for their failure to keep their end of the bargain and thinks that the Digital Rights Management approach can be saved. To which I cannot help but respond with Leslie Fish's observation from "The Sun Is Also A Warrior," slightly tweaked.

They own all words and they own all thought
We pay each time we listen to recordings we bought
No copies or uses without paying a fee
But no music, books or art as it used to be

The old god said this is what you willed
For only thus is your wish fulfilled
You shifted the balance of copyright
But now I will take steps to set things right

Shakespeare was also a plagarist
Disney depends on fair use
Not every copy made, means writers aren't paid
Copyrights can be abused

Across the land folk heard someone say
"The evil comes from the DMCA.
But what Congress wrought it can now undo.
Restore the balance, it's up to you."

The people rose and repealed the law
Restoring the balance that ruled before
So remember when you attack peer-to-peer
Some cures are worse than the disease you fear

Shakespear was also a plagarist
Disney depends on fair use
Not every copy made, means writers aren't paid
Copyrights can be absued
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